Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Haley Mills: Her Life and Times

I grew up with a famous father so I’ve always known people saying, “Oh hello!” and their faces lit up because they loved him. I basked in the reflected glow and there’s great warmth that comes with fame. Strangers smile at you but they also look you up and down like you’re an object on a shelf. I think fame gives you a feeling of gratitude and responsibility. 

- Haley Mills
The Telegraph, November 9, 2014

Acting is just a natural thing in my family. Other boys and girls go into the family business. So do we.

- Haley Mills, 1963
As quoted on IMDb.com

Former child star Haley Mills celebrates her 69th birthday a few days ago.  She was born Haley Catherine Rose Vivien Mills in London, England on April 18, 1946,  She is the second of the three children of the great British actor, John Mills, and his wife, prominent novelist and playwright Mary Haley Bell. Her older sister is actress Juliet Mills (born November 21, 1941) and her younger brother is actor Jonathan Mills (born December 3, 1949).

Haley Mills was discovered by English film director J. Lee Thompson.  In 1958, Thompson was searching for a young boy to play the lead role in his movie Tiger Bay, co-starring John Mills. After meeting Haley at the Mills' farm in Sussex, England, he was so impressed that he cast her in the part instead. When Tiger Bay was released in 1959, Haley won many accolades for her performance as Gillie Evans, a headstrong young girl.  In his review of the film for the New York Times (December 15, 1959), critic Bosley Crowther wrote glowingly of the newcomer.

"The most conspicuous and fascinating aspect of the British film "Tiger Bay," declared Crowther, "is the fluent and winning performance that 12-year-old Haley Mills gives in the role of a slum child of Cardiff who takes up with a hard-luck murderer."  He described Haley as "one of the most self-composed little performers we have seen in a long time."

Haley Mills and John Mills in Tiger Bay

After receiving a special award for her role in Tiger Bay at the 1959  Berlin Film Festival, Haley was on her way to stardom.  Her talent did not escape the notice of Walt Disney, who signed her to a contract.  She soon made her American film debut in Disney's Pollyanna.  Pollyanna was released in 1960 and Haley's role in the movie made her a star in the United States.  She even won a special Juvenile Academy Award for her performance as the orphaned "glad girl."  (She was the last person to receive the Juvenile Oscar).

After her success in Pollyanna, Disney Studios signed Haley Mills to a five-year contract.  She followed her performance in Pollyanna with 1961's The Parent Trap,, another big hit for Disney,  In The Parent Trap, Haley played the dual role of Susan and Sharon, twins scheming to reconcile their divorced parents, portrayed by Maureen O'Hara and Brian Keith.  Actress Susan Henning was Haley's body double for many of the twin scenes in the film.
Haley Mills starred in five other Disney moves: In Search of the Castaways (1962), Summer Magic (1963), The Moon-Spinners (1964).and That Darn Cat! (1965).  During those years, she also did some work outside the studio such as Whistle Down the Wind (1961), which was based on her mother's novel, and The Chalk Garden (1964), co-starring her father.

That Darn Cat! was Haley's final Disney movie.  Dean Jones co-starred in this comedy about a teenager( Mills) who becomes involved in a undertaking in which a Siamese cat named D.C. (short for Darn Cat), is used to lead F.B.I. agents to the hideout of a pair of bank robbers.  Jones, a Disney regular, portrayed an F,B,I. agent.

Haley Mills in That Darn Cat!

Haley's first post-Disney movie was The Trouble With Angels (1966), a comedy directed by Ida Lupino. in which she portrayed a mischievous Catholic boarding school girl.  In the film, Haley's character, Mary Clancy, and her friend Rachel (June Harding), delight in pulling pranks on the nuns and their Mother Superior, played by veteran actress Rosalind Russell.  The trouble making Mary refers to the pranks as her "scathingly brilliant ideas."

After The Trouble With Angels, Haley returned to Britain to star in Sky West and Crooked, another Mills family collaboration.  The screenplay was co-written by Mary Haley Bell  and the movie was directed by John Mills.  Released in the United States as Gypsy Girl, the film was set in an English village and Haley played an intellectually disabled 17-year-old.

When Haley was 19, English filmmaker Roy Boulting offered to cast her in his new movie, The Family Way.  The Family Way, originally  released in 1966, was based on a play, All in Good Time, by Bill Naughton.  Haley's role in the film marked quite a departure from her childhood Disney image. She portrayed Jenny Piper, a newlywed whose attempts to consummate her marriage are continually disrupted (Welsh actor Hywel Bennett played Jenny's husband, Arthur Fitton, and John Mills played her father-in-law, Ezra Fitton, in the film).

Haley Mills and Hywel Bennett in The Family Way

However, it wasn't the film as much as Haley's personal life that really surprised her fans of a more innocent era..  Many were shocked to learn that Haley had became romantically involved with director Roy Boulting, who was 33 years her senior and still married to his third wife (Enid Munnik). Haley's parents were not exactly thrilled when the pair moved in together. In an April 14, 1975 article in People magazine ("Haley Mills, 28, and Roy Boulting, 61: Pollyanna Never Had It So Happy," by Fed Hauptfuhrer), Roy admitted that he "understood their doubts."  "They misunderstood my motives," he added.

The couple wed in 1971 when Haley felt a desire to have a child..  "I wanted a baby," Haley explained to People, but not without being married."  On January 18, 1973, she gave birth to a son, Crispian John David Boulting. Chrispian goes by the name Crispian Mills and is best known as the frontman for the British rock band Kula Shaker.  He is a singer, songwriter, guitarist and film director.

Haley Mills with Roy Boulting and son, Crispian

Crispian Mills

In 1975, Haley's marriage to Roy Boulting fell apart.  While performing in London's West End in A Touch of Spring, she met fellow British actor Leigh Lawson.  The two began a relationship and they had a son together, Jason, born in 1977.  Their partnership ended sometime in the 1980s and Lawson went on to marry 1960s supermodel Twiggy in 1988.

Haley Mills with Leigh Lawson

Haley with sons Jason (left) and Crispian in 1997 photo

After her appearance in The Kingfisher Caper (released as Diamond Hunters in South Africa and as Diamond Lust on video), a 1975 South African film directed by Dirk DeVilliers , Haley Mills took a hiatus from acting.  She returned to the screen in 1981 with a starring role in the British television mini-series The Flame Trees of Thika.  The seven-episode series focused on he lives of British settlers in East Africa prior to World War I.

Haley reprised her roles as twins Sharon and Susan for three television movies: The Parent Trap II (1986); The Parent Trap III (1989) and Parent Trap IV: Hawaiian Honeymoon (1989).  She also appeared in a 1986 episode of Murder, She Wrote, starring Angela Lansbury.  The episode is entitled "Unfinished Business" (Season 3, Episode 3, Air Date: October 12, 1986).

In the late 1980s, Haley Mills starred in Good Morning, Miss Bliss, an American television comedy on the Disney Channel. The show's pilot was aired on July 11, 1987 and the series ran from 1988 until 1989.  Haley played the role of Carrie Bliss, at John F. Kennedy Junior High School in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The show was cancelled after only 13 episodes.  However, NBC, which produced the show for the Disney Channel, reconfigured it into Saved by the Bell, retaining four its characters.  Haley Mills did not appear in the reformatted series.

Haley Mills received plaudits for her performance in the 2005 American short film Stricken.  She played Hiddy in this 18-minute opus, directed and produced by American Jayce Bartok.  Stricken's tagline is "A quirky, short drama about three very different women who only happen to be related."

From 2007 until 2012, Haley appeared in the British television series Wild At Heart on ITV1.  She portrayed Caroline (Black) Du Plessis in the drama about a British veterinary surgeon and his family who run a game reserve in South Africa.  The show went off the air with a two-hour special.

In January of 2012, Haley revealed to Good Housekeeping magazine that she had privately battled doubled breast cancer, but was now in remission.  She said she was diagnosed with the disease in April 18, 2008, her 62nd birthday. "It was my birthday when I received the news I had breast cancer," the actress told Good Housekeeping.  "I was sitting in the sun by the Hudson River following a routine mammogram when I got the call on my mobile.  I was an enormous shock."

After surgery and three sessions of chemotherapy, Haley decided to opt out of chemotherapy and radiotherapy in favour of alternative treatment,  She did this without the support of her medical advisors.  Of her experience with chemotherapy, Haley told Britain's Daily Mirror in December, 2012 that "I could feel it draining me and killing me.  I felt I was dying." She stated that she was more frighted of the chemo than the cancer.  Nevertheless, she acknowledged that alternative treatment is not the solution for everyone.

In 2009, during her battle with breast cancer, Haley suggested to the scriptwriters of Wild at Heart that her older sister, Juliet,Mills, could replace her on the show.  Juliet ended up portraying Georgina, the sibling of Haley's character, Caroline, in eight episodes.

In addition to her accomplishments in film and television, Haley Mills has enjoyed a successful career in theatre.  She made her stage debut in a 1969 revival of J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan at the New Victoria Theatre in London's West End.  She played the leading role.  In the 1990s, Haley portrayed Anna Leonowens in touring stage productions of The King and I (She was the first to play Anna in the 1991 Australian production of the musical, directed by Christopher Renshaw).

Haley Mills as Peter Pan

Haley Mills in The King and I

In 2002, Haley Mills performed in an Off-Broadway production of Noel Coward's Suite in Two Keys.opposite American actress Judith Ivey.  In 2012, she appeared as Ursula Widdington in Ladies in Lavender at the Royal & Derngate theatre complex in Northamtpon, England, before setting out on a national tour of the UK.  In May of 2015, Haley is scheduled to tour Australia with her sister, Juliet, and brother-in-law, Maxwell Caulfield, in the comedy Legends! by Pulitizer Prize-winning playwright James Kirkwood.


*  Roy Boulting died of cancer on November 5, 2001 in Oxford, England.  He was 87 years old at the time of his death and had married five times.

John Mills and Leigh Lawson appeared together in the 1977 film The Devil's Advocate, a West German English-language production.

*  John Mills died on April 23, 2005.  He was 97-years old at the time of his death.  In 2012, Haley Mills told The Daily Mail: "My father was an inspiration to me; I made a few movies with him and I loved working with him. Everything about him - his whole approach to work, as well as his love, enthusiasm and respect for it and other people in the business - was inspiring. I was very lucky to have him as a role model."

Haley and John Mills

*  Mary Haley Bell died just months after her husband, on December 1, 2005.  She was 94 at the time of her passing.

*  Haley Mills is a grandmother.  Her son, Crispian, has been married to model Joanne Mills (née Branfoot) since 1995 and they have a son, Keshava.

*  Since 1997, Haley's partner has been Firdous Bamji, an Indian-American actor.  Bamji was born in Mumbai, India on May 3, 1966 and has appeared in a number of American television series such as Law and Order and movies such as The Sixth Sense (1999) and Analyze That (2002).  He also appeared in the off-Broadway in the play Indian Ink, a drama by Tony Award winner Tom Stoppard. Below is a photo of him with Haley at the plays's opening night, September 30, 2014.

Haley Mills with Firdous Bamji

- Joanne

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